What Time Should A Toddler Eat Dinner? 4pm? 5pm? 6pm?

Dinner is the start of your toddler’s bedtime routine… So it is important to get the timing right. But what time should a toddler eat dinner at?

Well, here’s all you need to know about feeding little toddlers to avoid pre-dinner hunger meltdowns and post-dinner hyper bedtime antics.

What Time Should A Toddler Eat Dinner?

How Long Before Bed Should A Toddler Eat Dinner?

When thinking about what time should a toddler eat dinner… we want to ensure our toddler has digested their food before they go to sleep to avoid tummy troubles or getting hyper before bed. 

So dinner should be served between 2-3 hours before bed as this leaves plenty of time for food to go down, energy to be worn off and for a calm bedtime routine to be implemented.

Looking to get your little one to sleep quickly and effortlessly? Check out my Bedtime and Nap Cheat Sheet and master the art of making daytime naps and bedtimes as seamless as possible.

How Long After Lunch Should A Toddler Eat Dinner?

A great rule of thumb is that toddlers should eat dinner 4 hours after lunch, with a healthy snack midway between.

So by working backwards, lunch would be served around 12.30pm to 1pm.

What Is My Toddler’s Ideal Dinner Time?

Answring “What time should a toddler eat dinner?” will depend on your child’s age and meal schedule throughout the day:

So, here are some toddler feeding schedules to get you started:

What Time Should A Toddler Eat Dinner Toddler Feeding Schedule

Dinner Time For 1-Year-Old

Your one-year-old toddler is still very young and needs to be in bed by 6.30-7pm so their last meal of the day is still going to be earlier than the rest of the family would probably like to eat.

Their daily meal schedule and snack times leading up to supper should look something like this:

Dinner Time For 2-Year-Old

By 2 years old, your toddler can manage to eat a little later and is working towards eating the evening meal full of a variety of foods with the rest of the family.

However, it is absolutely fine for them to eat before you as long as you sit with them and remain engaged.

Dinner Time For 3-Year-Old

By three years old your toddler should be having their dinner between 5.30pm and 6pm.

You should be having family meal times at the table every night (where work schedules allow) to help your little one learn how to behave at the table, socialise, develop their language and fine motor skills and spend some quality time together as a family.

Dinner Time For 4-Year-Old

By 4 years old your toddler can definitely eat as late as 6.30pm, but you should still be aiming to have your toddler in bed by 7.30-8pm at the very latest.

Finally, don’t feel guilty if your younger toddler is not eating every evening meal with you. Your aim is to end up with them eating with you and getting all the benefits of the family dinnertime by the time they are 5 years old.

Frequently Asked Questions About What Time Should A Toddler Eat Dinner

Looking for more information about what time should a toddler eat dinner? Find answers to the most common questions here.

How Many Meals Should A Toddler Eat A Day?

Toddlers should eat three meals a day, along with two or three snacks.

What Should A Toddler Eat For Dinner?

Toddlers should eat a balanced dinner that includes protein, vegetables, and carbohydrates. Examples could be grilled chicken, sweet potato, roasted vegetables, and brown rice.

Should A Toddler Eat Before Bed?

It’s best not to give a toddler a large meal right before bed, but a small snack is perfectly okay. Examples could be a piece of fruit or some crackers with cheese.

Can Toddlers Eat Late For Special Occasions?

While it’s generally recommended that toddlers eat dinner at a consistent time each day, it’s okay to make exceptions for special occasions or events.

Keep in mind that young children thrive on routine, so it’s best to try to keep the disruption to their feeding schedule to a minimum.

If you know that dinner will be served later than usual, you may want to offer your toddler a small snack to tide them over until dinner is ready.

Can My Toddler And Baby Eat At Different Times?

Yes, it’s perfectly okay for toddlers and babies to eat at different times if that works better for your family’s schedule.

Babies often need to eat more frequently and may have different feeding schedules than your toddler’s schedule. However, I would always suggest trying to have one time a day where both you, baby and toddler are sitting down and eating together.

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Author Image Bio
Paula McLaren is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and a highly qualified childcare expert with over 40 years of experience as a Norland Nanny. She holds a BA (Hons) in Early Years Development & Learning (0-6 Years) and the prestigious Norland Diploma. Paula has worked as a night nanny, run a successful daycare center in London, and helped raise countless children using her tried and tested developmental and guidance methods.

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